To hear this speech the populace had little by little crowded round, and the people's council had mingled with the senate, when on a sudden the leading men, withdrawing from the throng before an answer could be given, fetched all the gold and silver, both of state and private ownership, into the market-place, and casting it into a fire which they had hurriedly made up for this purpose, many threw themselves headlong into the same flames.
The resulting panic and dismay had no sooner spread to all the city, than another loud noise and outcry were heard from the citadel. A tower that had long been battered had collapsed, and through the breach a cohort of Phoenicians had rushed in and signalled to the general that the city was denuded of its customary guards and sentinels.
Hannibal, deeming it no time to hesitate, when such an opportunity offered, attacked with all his strength and captured the city out of hand.
He had given orders that all the grown inhabitants be put to the sword —a cruel command, but found in the upshot to have been well-nigh inevitable; for who could be spared of those who either shut themselves up with their wives and children and burned the houses over [p. 43]
their own heads, or took arms and never gave over1
fighting till they died?